By Adam Ray Palmer
Casey Affleck returns to the big screen in 2019 with not only a starring role, but also occupying the director’s chair… and holding the writer’s pen… oh and finally the Producer’s purse-strings.
Kicking off my Berlinale this year is Affleck’s passion project, Light of My Life. This is the first time Casey has directed, written and co-produced a movie he has starred in. Now, let me tell you about it…
Light of My Life stars Anna Pniowsky, Elisabeth Moss, Tom Bower, Hrothgar Mathews and of course, Affleck. Enthusiastic newcomer Pniowsky plays Rag, the 11-year-old daughter of ‘Dad’ (Casey’s character is never named). Rag is not your usual young girl though. She lives her life on the road with her father, she’s wise to the world when it comes to life experience and most unusually; she has to tell everyone she is a boy.
Light of My Life’s narrative centres on Casey’s and Anna’s characters travelling through forests, abandoned homes and treacherous snow – all because a virus broke out around a decade ago, wiping out the female population. The two-hour drama follows Dad and Rag on their travels as they try and evade Rag’s capture. She’s a rarity and ‘Dad’ knows this, making him a cunning, protective father.
Rag must live her public life as a boy, but when with her Dad, she’s a sweet young girl who just misses her normal life, and her deceased Mom. Elisabeth Moss plays the four-scene mother who we only see in flashbacks. Moss filmed her sequences all in one day, and she certainly leaves her mark. The camera is unforgiving as we are forced to watch her lifeless expressions when telling Casey she won’t be around for much longer.
With this film, there are similarities to Children of Men, The Road and Mad Max. The first two references are clear, but Mad Max makes the citation list because that’s where Casey’s love of the sci-fi-dystopian genre began. Like Children of Men, this movie also gives you heart palpitations. Casey has a wealth of experience when working with incredibly talented directors, and he has clearly jotted down everything they taught him.
On the directing front, Affleck’s pacing of this movie is fantastic. The slow-paced emotional scenes pack a huge punch; especially the opening monologue when Casey is telling Rag an elongated, made up bedtime story. Shot-caller Casey is also bang on when he ramps it up for the more adrenaline-fuelled moments too. The structure works so well, it really helps the movie stick in your mind long after the credits roll.
Affleck has delivered on his first written/directed feature. His clear production knowledge has served him well, and he has turned in a true piece of drama. It has struggle, it has emotion and it also has relief. A true drama ticks all those boxes for me, and Casey’s Light of My Life certainly fits the bill.
Cineroom’s rating: 4.5 stars
Light of My Life will be released in the UK later this year.